Epifluorescence microscopy was utilized to enumerate halophilic bacterial populations in two studies involving inoculated, actual radioactive waste/brine mixtures and pure brine solutions. The studies include an initial set of experiments designed to elucidate potential transformations of actinide-containing wastes under salt-repository conditions, including microbially mediated changes.
The first study included periodic enumeration of bacterial populations of a mixed inoculum initially added to a collection of test containers. The contents of the test containers are the different types of actual radioactive waste that could potentially be stored in nuclear waste repositories in a salt environment. The transuranic waste was generated from materials used in actinide laboratory research. The results show that cell numbers decreased with time. Sorption of the bacteria to solid surfaces in the test system is discussed as a possible mechanism for the decrease in cell numbers.
The second study was designed to determine radiological and/or chemical effects of 239Pu, 243Am, 237Np, 232Th and 238U on the growth of pure and mixed anaerobic, denitrifying bacterial cultures in brine media. Pu, Am, and Np isotopes at concentrations of ≤1×10–5M, ≤5×10–6M and ≤5×10-4 M respectively, and Th and U isotopes at concentrations of ≤4×10-3 M were tested in these media. The results indicate that high actinide concentrations affected both the bacterial growth rate and morphology. However, relatively minor effects from Am were observed at all tested concentrations with the pure culture.